Amnesty Pulls Navalny’s ‘Prisoner Of Conscience’ Status Over ‘Hate Speech’

Amnesty International has reportedly withdrawn its recent designation of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s as a “prisoner of conscience” over his alleged advocacy of violence and discrimination and…

Amnesty International has reportedly withdrawn its recent designation of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s as a “prisoner of conscience” over his alleged advocacy of violence and discrimination and comments that included hate speech.

Aleksandr Artemyev, the rights watchdog’s media manager for Russia and Eurasia, confirmed the decision to Mediazona on February 23 after the news was first reported by U.S. journalist Aaron Mate.

RFE/RL was unable to independently confirm the reports.

Artemyev wrote that Amnesty, which named Navalny a prisoner of conscience after his arrest in Moscow in January, decided to retract the designation “in light of new information” stemming from “old videos and social media posts in which Navalny made controversial pronouncements.”

The comments attributed to Navalny in the mid-2000s were not specified, but Artemyev said they were made as Navalny’s activism and challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin was gaining momentum and that their reemergence “appears to be another tactic to delegitimize Navalny’s work and criticism and to weaken public outcry about his detention.”

Artemyev told the independent Russian news outlet that while the rights watchdog had determined some of Navalny’s comments “rose to the level of hate speech,” according to Current Time, it was still calling for the anti-corruption activist’s “immediate release and for the Russian authorities to cease this politically motivated prosecution.”

The 44-year-old Navalny was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after he arrived on January 17 from Berlin, where he had been recovering from a poisoning with a Soviet-era nerve agent in August 2020 that Navalny says was ordered by Putin and carried out by Russian intelligence.

Protests

Navalny’s arrest for failing to report to the Moscow prison service — a violation of a suspended sentence related to a 2014 conviction for embezzlement that he and critics say was politically motivated — sparked anti-government protests in hundreds of cities and led to thousands of arrests.

On February 2, Navalny’s 3 1/2-year suspended sentence was converted to real jail time. His appeal was rejected on February 20, ensuring that Putin’s biggest political rival will spend about 2 1/2 years in prison, considering time already spent in detention.

In a separate case heard the same day, Navalny was fined 850,000 rubles ($11,500) for slandering a World War II veteran who had participated in a Kremlin-organized promotional video.

After Amnesty recognized Navalny as a prisoner of conscience on January 17, saying his arrest was “further evidence that Russian authorities are seeking to silence him,” the rights watchdog reportedly began receiving letters of complaint from unknown sources.

Navalny’s anti-corruption organization has targeted many high-profile Russians, including high-ranking government officials.

In the course of his political career, Navalny has also come under criticism for his association with ethnic Russian nationalists and about statements seen as racist and dangerously inflammatory.

With reporting by Current Time, Meduza, and Mediazona

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